Pumpkin isn’t just a delicious addition to dinner – it’s packed with health benefits, such as antioxidants like potassium, zinc, and fiber, and studies have shown that the seeds can ward off prostate cancer and arthritis.
Then there are the kids, of course, who won’t put up as much of a fuss when you tell them that you’re serving pumpkin – even outside of a flaky crust. Because pumpkin is generally affiliated with sweets, children don’t mind it as much as other “veggies” you try to feed them.
This delicious, healthy seasonal ingredient is most commonly available (and used) in the autumn. However, given that canned pumpkin is generally available year-round, you can prepare many of these dishes at any time!
To add more pumpkin to your diet the easy way – I doubt you’re cutting, boiling, pureeing, and canning your own pumpkin, but kudos if you are – stock up on pre-made pumpkin puree and put it in the pantry. Outside of the holidays, you can use the puree to make many delicious, low-cost meals, sides, and soups that are perfect additions to your fall dinner menus. Here are seven recipes to help get you started.
1. Oaxacan Pumpkin Tamales
When you think of traditional Mexican food, pumpkin isn’t the first ingredient to come to mind. Corn, for sure, but so is canned pumpkin puree, along with cinnamon and brown sugar. There’s also a bean filling, to balance the sweetness of the previous ingredients, comprised of anise, chipotle chiles, black beans, and garlic.
This recipe is a bit labor intensive, so it may not be the best for first-time tamale makers. However, if you have the time it’s worth the effort.
- 1 pound banana leaves (thawed or frozen) or corn husks
- 2 cups Maseca corn flour
- 2 cups to 2 1/2 cups warm chicken stock
- 1/2 pound lard
- 2 cups pureed cooked or canned pumpkin
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1/2 cup dark-brown sugar, firmly packed
- 2 cups water
- 2 teaspoons anise
- canned chipotle in adobo sauce
- 2 cups to 2 1/2 cups cooked or canned black beans, drained
- 5 to 6 garlic cloves, peeled
- 2 tablespoons lard
- Prepare the bean filling by adding the water and anise to a small pan and boiling until the infusion is reduced by half. Strain and reserve.
- Puree the beans, chiles, garlic, and anise infusion in a blender or food processor.
- Melt lard in a heavy skillet or saucepan over high heat. When it’s hot, add the bean puree and reduce to medium heat and allow it to simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally until the liquid is evaporated. Season to taste with salt and let it cool to room temperature.
- To assemble the tamales, unfold the banana leaves or corn husks and wipe them clean with a damp cloth. Pat dry. Trim leaves into 12 to 14 rectangles using kitchen shears – 14 by 11 inches each – while saving some of the longer trimmings for ties.
- Mix the Maseca corn flour with enough of the warm chicken stock to make a mixture that’s soft, but not sticky. Beat lard in a separate bowl on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the Maseca mixture and pumpkin puree to the lard in a couple batches, beating on medium speed and scraping the bowl as needed, until incorporated and light as butter cream.
- Beat in cinnamon, brown sugar, and salt to taste.
- Place one or two leaf or husk rectangles on the counter and place 2/3 to 1 cup of Maseca mixture in the center and spread with a spatula into a 1/2-inch-thick oval.
- Place 1 heaping tablespoon of the bean filling in the center of the oval and fold the left and right edges toward the center so they overlap slightly. Do the same with the top and bottom edges.
- Once you’ve made neat, flat packages tied with the leftover trimming strings, steam the tamales for 45 to 50 minutes.
2. Creamy Pumpkin Penne
It makes sense to toss pasta with pumpkin puree, since most sauces are the consistency of canned pumpkin anyway. This recipe for Creamy Pumpkin Penne, which calls for onion, red peppers, garlic, nutmeg, and whole grain pasta (among other mouth-watering additions) is ready in 30 minutes or less.
Bacon isn’t called for in the list of ingredients, but I would suggest adding some chopped, cooked bacon to the mix. That sweet-salty-savory combo is one of my favorites, and always a winner.
- 16 oz whole grain penne pasta
- 1 onion, chopped fine
- 1 red bell pepper, chopped fine
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup canned solid-pack pumpkin
- 2 cups vegetable broth
- 1 cup white wine
- 1/4 cup evaporated milk
- 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
- black pepper
- In a large skillet, cook the onion, bell pepper, and garlic over medium heat until the vegetables are softened.
- Stir in pumpkin puree, vegetable broth, white wine, evaporated milk, nutmeg, and salt and pepper to taste.
- Let the sauce simmer, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes.
- In the meantime, boil the pasta according to package direction (usually about nine minutes) in a large pot of boiling, salted water.
- Drain the pasta when it’s al dente and pour directly into the sauce mixture. Stir until the pasta is well coated.
- Serve with cracked black pepper on top.
3. Cream of Pumpkin Soup
There’s never a bad time for a piping-hot, feel-good bowl of soup, especially as the trees lose their leaves and the temperatures take a dip. With a can of pureed pumpkin, olive oil, garlic, yellow onion, evaporated milk, curry powder, cumin, chicken stock, and 25 minutes, you can have a steamy, seasonal bowl of deliciousness that’s also low in fat.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tablespoon curry powder
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 3 cups fat-free, low sodium chicken or vegetable broth
- 1 15-ounce can pumpkin
- 1 12-ounce can evaporated fat-free milk
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic until softened.
- Stir in curry powder and cumin and cook for one minute.
- Add chicken broth and canned pumpkin.
- Reduce heat and simmer on low for 20 minutes.
- Add evaporated fat-free milk and cook for two more minutes.
- Transfer the hot soup to a blender and blend until smooth. For a lump-free soup, dump the blended soup into a sieve, pushing the liquid into a bowl with a spatula.
4. Pan-Fried Pumpkin Gnocchi With Brown Butter Sage
I’ve never had gnocchi before – mostly because it sounds weird and difficult to make at home – but this recipe not only sounds fresh and aromatic (thanks to lemon zest, balsamic vinegar, and sage), but it’s also not terribly difficult to prepare. It’s sort of like frying up savory donuts.
- 1/2 cup skim milk ricotta
- 1/2 cup canned pumpkin
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmegiano Reggiano
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup all purpose flour, sifted plus more for dusting
- 3 tablespoons butter, divided
- 2 tablespoon olive oil, divided
- 2 tablespoons good quality balsamic vinegar
- 3 sprigs fresh sage, plus more for garnish
- shaved Parmegiano Reggiano for serving
- In a medium bowl, mix together the canned pumpkin, lemon zest, salt, ricotta cheese, egg yolk, and grated Parmegiano Reggiano.
- In a separate bowl, add the sifted flour.
- Add about half of the flour to the pumpkin mixture and incorporate the two with a spatula until the flour disappears.
- Add the rest of the flour mixture, but use your fingertips instead of the spatula to knead the dough.
- When the dough forms a slightly sticky but clean ball, divide the dough into four equal parts. Roll one of the sections into a log that’s one-inch in diameter.
- Cut the gnocchi into one-inch pieces with a knife and add to a pan of heated butter. Fry pieces until both sides are golden brown.
- Once the gnocchi is fried, clean the pan and add new butter and olive oil. Heat and fry the sage until fragrant. Remove.
- Whisk balsamic vinegar into the pan and pour over the gnocchi. Garnish with the sage and serve with shaved Parmesan cheese.
5. Sausage-Pumpkin Cornbread Stuffing
No holiday table is complete without stuffing. Whether it’s cooked inside or outside the bird, or in a saucepan on top of the range, stuffing is a staple.
This year, add a little something extra to your stuffing recipe with two ingredients that will keep your guests guessing: jalapenos and pumpkin.
- 3/4 pound sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
- 2 jalapenos, minced (with seeds)
- 12 corn muffins or two 8 1/2-ounce cornbread mixes, prepared and crumbled (10 cups)
- 1 15-ounce can pumpkin
- 1 14-ounce can chicken or vegetable broth
- 1 cup dried cranberries
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh sage or 1 heaping tablespoon dried sage
- In a large skillet, cook the sausage and jalapenos over medium heat, breaking up the meat until it’s no longer pink. Drain the fat. Transfer to a large bowl.
- Add the cornbread to the sausage mixture and fold in the pumpkin, broth, cranberries, and sage.
- Cover the stuffing with foil and store in the fridge up to one day ahead of stuffing the turkey.
6. Pumpkin Lasagna
Lasagna is a tricky dish to master. The sauce, all the cheeses, and let’s not forget the multiple layers of noodles. In this pumpkin lasagna recipe, the sauce is replaced with canned pumpkin and spices, while the lasagna noodles need no boiling beforehand.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 onions, chopped
- 2 pounds Swiss chard, tough stems removed, leaves washed well and chopped
- 2 1/4 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon dried sage
- 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
- 3 cups canned pumpkin puree (one 28-ounce can)
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
- 1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan
- 1/2 cup milk
- 9 no-boil lasagne noodles (about 6 ounces)
- 1 tablespoon butter
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Cook the onions in olive oil in a large non-stick frying pan on medium-low heat for 5 minutes or until translucent. Increase the heat to medium high and add the chard, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, 1/2 teaspoon sage, and 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg. Cook until the chard is wilted and no water remains in the pan – 5 to 10 minutes.
- In a medium bowl, mix together 2 cups of the pumpkin, 3/4 cups of cream, 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, and the remaining salt, pepper, sage, and nutmeg.
- Pour the milk into an 8×12 baking dish and top with three noodles. Spread half the pumpkin mixture over the noodles, top with the Swiss chard, and add a second layer of noodles on top of that. Repeat with another layer of pumpkin and chard.
- Combine the remaining cup of pumpkin and 3/4 cups cream. Spread evenly over the top of the lasagna and sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan and dots of butter. Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake 15 minutes more or until the cheese is golden brown and bubbly.
7. Turkey Pumpkin Chili
Sure, you can get rid of that leftover turkey by making sandwiches, but that won’t take care of the extra pumpkin in the cupboard. Kill two birds with one stone with this recipe since it will be even easier to make the night after a big dinner because most of the ingredients will be prepped at your fingertips.
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 small yellow onion, chopped
- 1 green bell pepper, cored, seeded, and chopped
- 2 jalapenos, seeded and finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 pound ground white or dark meat turkey
- 1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes, with liquid
- 1 15-ounce can pumpkin puree
- 1 cup water
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 15-ounce can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
- Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat and add onion, bell pepper, jalapenos, and garlic. Cook, stirring frequently, for about five minutes.
- Add in turkey and cook until browned. If using leftover turkey, cut into cubes and reserve until the fourth step.
- Add tomatoes, pumpkin, water, chili powder, cumin, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat to medium low and add beans and leftover, cubed turkey. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes.
Pumpkin is a delicious, affordable, and healthy ingredient to add to a myriad of recipes. Additionally, as a seasonal ingredient, it makes the autumn and holidays special by jazzing up your usual dinners. Guests and kids love pumpkin dishes too, and you’ll be pleased by how delicious it can be outside of a pie crust!
Do you have favorite savory recipes that use canned pumpkin?
(photo credit: Shutterstock)